On thin ice: Fasel meets with Lukashenka
The Ice Hockey World Championship is scheduled to start in Riga and Minsk in May, but for political reasons there are strong reservations about Belarus hosting the event. Observers had speculated that the International Ice Hockey Federation might use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to cancel the event in Minsk. But after the organisation's president René Fasel travelled to Minsk for a meeting with Lukashenka, he has come under heavy fire in the press.
A grim pas de deux
Novaya Gazeta fears that Fasel's stubbornness will do lasting damage to ice hockey:
“The guest did not want to discuss politics. Although the world championship is all about politics. 'Sport is outside the political sphere' is an empty phrase. When it comes to organising global events, politics and money dominate. But Fasel is determined not to lose any money due to another cancellation or postponement of the world championship. And Lukashenka needs the championship to reaffirm his highly questionable legitimacy. This pas de deux will destroy ice hockey unless Fazel is brought to his senses.”
Just don't go
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung calls on the national associations to boycott the ice hockey tournament:
“René Fasel has acted foolishly. By going to Belarus he exposed himself to political manipulation - which is exactly what happened. For months now, the IIHF has been putting off the long overdue cancellation of the world championship in Belarus for financial reasons, or perhaps due to gentle pressure from the Kremlin. ... But no less cowardly are those who are calling from a distance for a hard line and resolve without taking any action themselves. To this day not a single association has pulled out of the highly controversial world championship. Now it's time to take a stance.”